Book Review: Ancient Origins

Ancient Origins is a paranormal novella by CJ Bolyne and is available from Amazon here:

I read this book with my book club and to be honest it wasn’t my favourite. Not my least favourite thus far, but definitely not in my top 3. There were some good things about the book, some redeeming qualities, and I will go over both what I liked, and what I didn’t.

The cover was eye-catching and the guy definitely appealed to me (I have a type and he fits it) so I was eager to read this book, even if the description on the back made me think “Oh, another vampire book”. I was more than willing to give this book a try.

I guess the first thing that I noticed was the length of the chapters, since I had to set the reading schedule for the group. Amazon lists the paperback as having 306 pages. There were 42 chapters plus a prologue and an epilogue. My own book, Nothing Everything Nothing, is about the same length in page count, give or take, and has 21 chapters and an epilogue and I had been aiming for short chapters since it was for teens. The last book we read was 322 pages and only had roughly 32 chapters. So I was curious about these short chapters and in reading found that some were numbered and some had both a number and a subtitle. Some chapter breaks were in odd places and it disrupted the flow of the narrative. The next thing I noted about the chapters was that in the paperback (I read it on my phone but 3 members in our group buy the paperback) the font for the chapter numbers, the chapter headings as it were, is HUGE and took up more than half the first page of each chapter.

Second thing I noticed was that the font was larger, probably a 14pt as opposed to an 11 or 12pt, and the line spacing was quite large. It looked more like an early chapter book for fourth graders or a large print edition for that special shelf at the back of the public library.

Those are both technical observations, however, and while they irked me as a fellow writer they do not, in anyway, affect the story or the quality of the writing.

As for the story itself, well, the first thing you get is a prologue and it wasn’t a scene it was a voice over from the main character. “You think you know what vampires are but the myths are wrong. I was surprised too. I’m going to tell you what happened to me” sort of thing – but a page or so of it. (My concept of how many pages things are is wonky because I read on my phone). Honestly, it sounded more like a back of book description or a voice over for a book or movie trailer. And it’s in first person.

You jump to another planet, as promised by the book’s actual description, where the male main character is found guilty of murder and sentenced to life on the back water penal colony of Earth. Pretty straight forward at this point and no real indications of their culture or abilities. This is all in third person.

On Earth you meet the female main character as a ten year old girl, again in first person. I found the beginning of her first chapter long and difficult to read. She starts out as a city girl, but one that climbed trees and fences and scared her mother all the time – but admits that she hated country living? Oh, she hated the isolation and misses her friends , there we go. When you figure out how and when she moved out of town the chapter rambles on and on about the house and the yard before finally getting to the point where she sees a shooting star and finds this scar in the earth where something landed on her acreage.

And then you jump ahead and the female narrator is twenty and the story actually picks up. Well, after a long, ‘here’s what happened in 10 years’ that includes some childhood memories that emphasize that she’s seen as a freak. After the typical ‘I never fit in’ stuff and the ‘apparently I’m a gifted student and get to go to a special school and graduate early’ stuff you get to one of the redeeming qualities: she’s studying archaeology.

Finally we seem to get to the start of the story in earnest. The female main character, and still first person narrator, and her three lovely, talented, intelligent friends are ready to look for jobs and start their lives, after a short backpacking trip around Europe where they just happen to bump into this gorgeous stranger with a foreign name.

They are all sent on a dig to Romania by a secretive company where they are to examine a secret room found in Vlad’s castle. Now we get a hint that things are going to get intense and possibly violent. Oh, and cue the handsome stranger’s return as it turns out he’s the convicted criminal from chapter 1.

Okay, I’m getting way too detailed here. Look, once you get to this point you’re finally past all the introductions. Okay, except for the standard “so you’re a vampire? what about sunlight? what about garlic? how do I kill  you?” conversation. I guess I was being detailed because it bothered me that it took this long to get to the actual “hey, something’s happening” of the book, and in such a short book.

The rest of the book is about the twisty plans of this person and that person and the lies and the double crossing and the pretend double crossing or is it real? Who do they trust? What’s going on? This was actually very well written and I honestly believed a few of those lies.

Oh, and the female main character can shoot – believable if she grew up in the country. I can shoot, though not well because of my eyes. My children will learn when they’re old enough. But this woman is a great shot, and even that is believable, until they are moving at supernatural speeds and she’s still hitting targets.

EDIT – The epilogue was not at the end of the book but on conferring with the author this is apparently a layout error, so, the editor’s fault, not the author’s.

Obviously this book didn’t strike the right chord with me. However, if you enjoy vampires and new spins on vampires and you don’t mind a quick, short, easy read with the occasional stiff or cheesy dialogue and the odd cliche then give this book a try and tell me what you thought of it. Different books for different readers, right?

Oh, and there’s a cameo by a notorious historic figure. You can’t miss him.

I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars. I’m curious to know what you think of it.




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